At a June 9 event held by the German Marshall Fund, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman provided a useful articulation of the Biden administration's view of relations with China. She criticized Chinese government actions related to security, values, and intellectual property, but also made clear that the administration hopes for a collaborative relationship (e.g. on climate change and health) and said "[o]ur aim is not to contain China."
The full transcript of her remarks on China is as follows:
Finally, I want to talk about a challenge that’s going to help define the next century, and that is relationship between the United States, the EU, and China.
I was pleased to join the first high level meeting of the U.S.-EU dialogue on China two weeks ago. It was a productive and wide-ranging discussion, and the dialogue promises to be an important forum for collaboration as European capitals reassess their relationships with Beijing.
In recent years, China has used increasingly aggressive tactics to threaten the economies, security and values of the United States, and of our partners and allies. Beijing is targeting investments in critical infrastructure around the world and engaging in brazen thefts of intellectual property. They are committing appalling crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide in Xinjiang. And they’re waging a coercive campaign to undermine democratic values and rewrite the rules of the international system to favor their authoritarian approach to governance.
The United States’ position is clear: Our relationship with China will be collaborative where it can be, competitive where it should be, and adversarial where it must be.
Our aim is not to contain China, or to force other countries to choose sides. I made that crystal clear during my recent trip to Europe and Southeast Asia. Our goal is to uphold the rules based international system that has benefited all of us for decades, protecting freedom and human dignity, promoting prosperity and innovation, and keeping the peace.
Where we can, it’s imperative that we work with China, especially on issues that are truly global in scope, like climate change and health security.
And as President Biden has said, we welcome healthy competition with China on technology and the economy. Because so long as we’re all playing by the same rules, we’re confident that the world’s democracies can win the jobs and industries of the future.
She later elaborated on these points in response to a question:
Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer: Thank you. Thank you so much, Ambassador Sherman, you put a lot of topics out there. I wanted to immediately get back to the EU-U.S. dialogue on China, which you mentioned that you recently launched with the European External Action Service Secretary General Stefano Sannino. Could you tell us a bit more about this dialogue? What are the key issues that are being or will be addressed in this format? How do you articulate this EU dialogue with the NATO discussions on China? Because obviously, as we are heading to the NATO Summit, as well, it seems that China will also be an important piece of the NATO framework. So how do they complement one another? And what do you say to European allies who are concerned by a U.S. policy that sometimes is viewed from Europe as a sort of new Cold War with China and the fact that Europeans don’t want to feel squeezed between the United States and China? So, these are just a few questions that I’ve been regrouping on China, you can pick and choose. But I think it’s an interesting way of engaging the discussion.
Deputy Secretary of State Sherman: Thank you, Alexandra. I agree. You know, as I said, we do not seek to contain China, hold China back. We want China to play by the international rules of this world that we have all constructed together. And the U.S.-EU China dialogue is organized around six pillars: resilience, reciprocity, security, human rights, multilateralism, and engagement. And we had colleagues from the European External Action Service and across the different sectors. We had colleagues on the American side as well. And it wasn’t just a, you know, you do your talking points, we do our talking points, we actually had a dialogue on issues under each of these pillars, where we agreed where we disagreed, how we could go forward. And the Secretary General has sent me a follow up note about how we should continue this conversation. I’ll be replying to him shortly, so this is going to be an ongoing set of workstreams. That will help us to get closer on a on an agreed way forward, even though the broad principles are already agreed to.
The NATO alliance is also obviously critical. It is a security foundation for all of us, the United States and Europe. And so I think these two approaches really do work together. Because we are looking at things like trade, multilateralism, investment, resilience, supply chains, human rights, security, to the extent that is within the competence of the European Union, NATO is looking at broader security dimensions. And hopefully both of these institutions work together to help to help advance our objectives here.
We understand that China plays a role in everybody’s economy, the United States economy as well, both investing in China as well as back and forth exports from China to the United States. But we want to make sure as I said, that the international rules-based order that we have constructed together stands. And when China does not play by those rules, when China takes our intellectual property, when China uses cyber capabilities in ways that undermine that fair playing field, when China abuses the human rights of its people, takes over in essence, Hong Kong, creates a genocide in Xinjiang against the Uyghurs, accelerates its aggression vis-à-vis Taiwan, these are issues of concern for European allies, and obviously a concern for NATO, there are areas where we will work together. Right now, of course, in constructing, getting back to compliance or compliance in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran, China is part very much of that negotiating team.
On the issues of climate, we cannot get to where we want to get to 1.5 degrees Celsius without China taking action. And on global health, we certainly want to understand where the pandemic really came from, and how it originated, not only for our own scientific interests, but China should be interested as well so that we do not face another pandemic and that we all take whatever actions we need to, to ensure that we don’t face such a crisis again. So, it’s a very complex strategy, but one I think that we are developing together, and we had a very successful and very animated first session.